A question of whom to trust
November 29, 1998
Ronald Trautman of Hays received a 161/2-year sentence for drug smuggling in 1995, based largely on the testimony of his cousin, John Regis "Re Re" King of Homestead.
King was an unusual witness. He admitted to several people that hed murdered two men, though he was never charged, and had a far more violent criminal history than any of the dozen men he would testify against.
But prosecutors told the judge that Kings word could be trusted because he was honest about his failings, even though Trautman passed a lie detector test in which he swore that King lied about Trautmans role in the drug ring.
Trautman said the biggest lie came when King testified that while Trautman was involved mostly in nickel-and-dime deals, he had helped to bring a shipment of 8 kilograms of cocaine to Pittsburgh. Trafficking in that amount of drugs doubled Trautmans sentence.
King was sentenced to only five years because of his cooperation.
In the fall of 1997, Trautman, imprisoned at the Federal Correctional Institute at Allenwood, got a strange series of handwritten letters. One asked him for a transcript of his trial, promising help. Another said an internal U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration document was a big lie. Another said the government knew Trautman had not been involved in the cocaine deal nor in a marijuana deal that was brought out at Trautmans sentencing. Two other letters contained money orders to Trautman, each for $200.
A handwriting analyst told Trautmans family that King had written the letters. The return address belonged to one of Kings relatives.
Trautman has gotten no more letters. He believes the information was Kings clumsy attempt to set the record straight, and Trautman has asked for an evidentiary hearing.
Trautman admits he has committed crimes that deserve imprisonment, but he figures that more than half of the time he is serving is Kings.